Twelve South Journal review: The executive's MacBook case

Twelve South may be best known for its cases that look like vintage books, but there's a new style in town and it's all about that VP look. The Journal line, which comprises matching MacBook, accessory, and iPhone cases, is out now. Whether or not you're into the faux book look, the Journal will give you a second take.

The Good

  • Classic professional look
  • Lightweight (for being leather)
  • Extra pocket for paperwork
  • That leather smell

The Bad

  • Only comes in brown
  • No pen holder

The specifics

Journal for MacBook: The features

Twelve South Journal MacBook case

iMore Best Award

The Journal for MacBook Air and MacBook Pro is designed specifically with Apple's laptop design in mind. It's thin, lightweight, and properly matched for size when the case is closed (with a little wiggle room when the case is open and your MacBook is sitting inside).

The entire exterior is covered in full-grain tanned leather. It has that European smooth look, like the interior of a Lamborghini.

The interior is covered with microsuede for scratch protection. The case is stiff but flexible.

The top portion of your MacBook is anchored to the top portion of the Journal with two thin elastic straps. This isn't to keep your laptop locked in place. It's simply a strap to keep the top half of the journal from falling to the tabletop when you're working on your laptop while it's open.

There is an extra spot under the microsuede lining on the bottom that hides a thin folder-style pocket. It's just enough to slip a few pieces of paper, but not enough for an entire notebook.

Near perfection

Journal for MacBook: What I like

Twelve South Journal MacBook case

The first thing that hit me when I opened the Journal is just how lightweight it is, especially considering it's made from leather, which is the opposite of a lightweight material. Because it needs the room for housing your laptop while open and closed, the case is about two inches wider and one inch longer than the MacBook Pro (the MacBook I'm using to review the Journal). Even with the additional size, the overall feel of the case seems slim, nonintrusive, and just plain pretty to look at.

It's incredibly well-made, as is everything Twelve South produces, with solid stitching around the borders and a nice flourish across the binding to make the whole thing look like a notebook portfolio.

It's incredibly well-made, as is everything Twelve South produces, with solid stitching around the borders and a nice flourish across the binding to make the whole thing look like a professional's notebook portfolio. Seriously, if you didn't have a laptop to put inside, it'd be the perfect notebook folder for any executive.

Though minimal in features, the Journal for MacBook does include a slim folder-style pocket underneath the lining. When you lift up the bottom tab, you'll find a compartment that's just suited for sliding a small stack of papers. It's not designed for a full notebook or anything, but it's the perfect place for storing contracts, press materials, takeout menus, and other paper related things.

Limited options

Journal for MacBook: What I don't like

Twelve South Journal MacBook case

The fact that the Journal looks like an executive notebook portfolio immediately makes me think "This should come in black," but it doesn't. It only comes in cognac brown. Don't get me wrong, that rich brown color is definitely a head-turner, but not everyone likes brown. I know a few executives that won't buy anything in brown leather. Twelve South doesn't usually have a lot of color variety in its case options, and that's good most of the time, but in the case of the Journal for MacBook, I think a black option would be smart.

I mentioned that the Journal is minimalist in features, and that's not an overstatement. Other than the slim folder-style pocket underneath the lining, there isn't anything else. In my mind, the Journal is perfectly designed for a single pen pocket, right at the side. Just one. I mean. If there's a pocket for your contracts, it makes sense to have a pocket for the pen to sign those contracts.

Something extra

The Caddysack accessory case

Twelve South Journal Caddysack

Though you may want your MacBook Air or Pro case to be as minimal as possible, you know you're going to need something to keep your power cable, wall plug, and dongles in. Might I suggest the perfectly-paired Journal Caddysack? It's the same as Twelve South's BookBook Caddysack, but with the Journal's executive design.

It's about the size of your standard novel. Inside, you'll find three elastic loops, a mesh pocket, and two adjustable elastic straps.

It's meant to carry just the basics.

I can store my MacBook Pro USB-C cable, my iPad Pro (2018) USB-C cable, my iPhone Lightning cable, my Aukey USB-C 8-port hub, and my MacBook Pro's 87-watt wall plug with the PlugBug attached. I can also fit a couple of flash drives, SD cards, and other small items into the mesh pocket.

And this one does have a pen holder. In fact, it's just the right size to slip the Apple Pencil into, plus have enough room for me to store my Apple Pen.

It really is the perfect companion for the Journal MacBook case. It's available now for $90.

See at Twelve South

The bottom line

Journal for MacBook Air and MacBook Pro

Twelve South Journal MacBook case

I truly love the Journal case for MacBook. It's absolutely stunning to look at, and it's incredibly lightweight for what it's made of.

I love it more than the BookBook line, mostly because it's not a faux book look. It's got that classy executive aesthetic. I also love that it matches perfectly with my AirSnap AirPods case.

I hope that Twelve South opens up the color options to at least include black for those that don't like brown, but I do love the rich cognac color.

Though there isn't a pocket for a pen anywhere inside the Journal case for MacBook, the $90 Caddysack is a really nice companion that will store your mobile computing basics and a pen or two.

This is a big win in my book(book) for being very good looking and lightweight. If you like the way it looks, you'll love the way it feels.

$150 at Twelve South

Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).